South Valley farmers welcome weekend rain

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Weekend rains may hamper efforts to harvest this year's crop, but overall, a Tulare County citrus grower says bring it on. Workers off Highway 198 near Exeter could be seen taking advantage of bright sunny skies Friday morning. (KFSN)

Farmers in the South Valley say bring on the rain.

Workers off Highway 198 near Exeter could be seen taking advantage of bright sunny skies Friday morning. They were picking and loading hundreds of oranges.

Weekend rains may hamper efforts to harvest this year's crop, but overall, Tulare County citrus grower Brian Neufeld says bring it on.

He farms 400 acres of navels and mandarins in Exeter, Lindsay, and Strathmore. "If I look at weighing my options, I'm going to take the rain over any concerns I might have over this year's bloom," Neufeld said.

Warmer temperatures have sped the season up, so his main concern is that an extended cold front could endanger his next round of oranges. "You can smell the orange blossoms right now, and it's in a delicate period where if we have some storms, it's going to prohibit our ability to get in and spray fungicides and pesticides that we need to do," he said.
January saw significant rain, but precipitation fell off in February.

But Neufeld says if the forecasts for March are accurate, storms could help fill up local reservoirs.

In the meantime, he won't be irrigating his groves this weekend, saving both water and money."If we have to evacuate for flooding, then I would start being concerned, but at this point no, I would say bring on every bit that we can get," Neufeld said.

Neufeld says farmers still aren't out of the woods when it comes to potential freeze damage.

So while farmers desperately want rain, they're keeping an eye on freezing temperatures overnight.
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